Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pushed out of that comfortable pew

Monday, February 13, 2006

So here I am, middle-aged, kids grown or nearly so, deep in the throes of a totally unexpected mid-life crisis. I thought I had it all figured out, you know. Thought I'd long since worked my way through this stuff. I thought I knew where I belonged, understood how I fit in, had come to terms with the messy, less-than-perfect parts.

Then, suddenly: Meltdown at the Catholic parish where I had been an active member for 26 years, and I found myself at the epicenter. I was treated badly, I feel, but even more hurtful was the way the parish community was torn apart--just when I thought we'd been making such progress at building it up. I can't go back there again. A year ago, I thought I would take a sort of "sabbatical," pray elsewhere for a couple of months until I could face it again, except somehow I never got there. Anyway, enough said about that; it's not what I want to dwell on now, but it is how this spiritual road trip began.

And so I've wandered, trying out different Catholic churches, moving on to different Christian churches. I was quickly able to rule some out. (I thought maybe I could be a Lutheran, but it only took half a service at the nearest Lutheran church to prove to myself that I didn't belong there. Everyone seemed to exude so much Christian joy and confidence--not necessarily a bad thing, but it was way too much for a soul as lost and confused as I.)

Eventually, I started to divide my time between a different Catholic church than the one I had belonged to and an Episcopal church a few miles down the road. More time passed and I found myself mostly at the Episcopal church, feeling on alternate Sundays that I definitely didn't belong there or that I definitely did. Eventually, I made up my mind to leave. I imagined myself writing a memoir, maybe calling it "My Year as an Episcopalian." One year exactly after my arrival on that scene, I was sure I was there for the last time. Then I thought maybe I ought to go back the following week to the annual meeting, for closure, and when I did I found myself feeling very strongly that I really did belong. So I've been back a few more Sundays, each time feeling pretty sure it's going to be my last visit, then reneging when Sunday rolled round again.

I'd really like to settle somewhere by the time Lent starts in another two weeks, but when I sit down and try to make up my mind about where to go I feel more confused than ever. Where do I belong? What's it all about, anyway? I can't believe I'm asking myself these questions again, so many years beyond those late-night and not-entirely-sober dormitory debates about the meaning of life.


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